The twelve step program of recovery developed many years ago and used by many drug and alcohol programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous has been very successful in giving people a road map to healing and deliverance. Its power to release freedom comes from its biblical framework. The steps are taken directly from scripture and, when correctly applied bring about freedom and hope for the future.
The eighth and ninth steps of the twelve step program read this way:
8. Make a list of all persons we have harmed, and become willing to make
amends to them all.
9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
A key to moving forward is to successfully deal with the past.
This is the primary lesson from a book rarely studied in the church:
Most of us interpret this book to be a personal admonition to someone concerning an issue that has little to do with any of us in the present. But, this letter contains a scriptural key for a successful future. The key is successfully reconciling the past.
Reconciliation is not just a relational term but an accounting term as well. An auditor will reconcile items on the general ledger – amounts that have been “spent” to actual dollars in the bank account. By doing this process, the auditor ascertains the financial integrity of the organization. Auditing your life is an important part of the twelve step program we spoke of earlier. You are to make a fearless moral inventory of your “accounts” in the present. This helps you to know where your current resources are being “spent”. This effort reveals what is needed to be eliminated from our lives so that our focus and energy is actually going toward something that is healthy and furthering the goals of the Spirit for us.
But, an audit also reveals outstanding accounts or amounts still owed to others. You cannot correctly ascertain how much you really have going forward until you know how much you owe. Outstanding balances that go unpaid can become judgments against your life.
So, one of the keys to moving forward is to eliminate bad habits that drain you of your God given resources and to pay off your debts owed in the past. This process produces accountability and integrity in your life.
The book of Philemon is about an unpaid debt owed to someone.
Scholars believe that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this letter. He writes to a wealthy, Christian convert in Colosse named Philemon. It appears that Philemon had been born again through Paul’s work in the area. This letter was not only addressed to Philemon, but also to Apphia, Archippus and to the church that meets in their home. We have heard mention of Archippus before in Colossians 4:17. Apphia may have been Philemon’s wife, but we can’t be sure.
It is interesting that the letter is a personal letter but is also addressed to the church. It appears that the matter written about is known by the whole church so Paul addresses it to all that are aware of the issue for their knowledge and for accountability sake.
The matter concerns a runaway slave named Onesimus. He was owned by Philemon but ran away and apparently went to where Paul was located. During his exposure to the gospel taught by Paul, Onesimus was born again.
Paul could see the power of God at work in Onesimus and could foresee that God had a plan to use Onesimus to help in the ministry. But, as an inventory was taken of Onesimus’ life, it became clear that he had an outstanding debt owed: there was something in his past that he needed to make right.
As a side note, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the spreading of those teachings by those who followed Him were directly responsible for the abolishing of slavery. True historical rendering of our history as a nation reveals that most Abolitionists were Christians whose study of the Bible revealed that all men where brothers and to be free of slavery to their fellow man. Paul does not mention the evil of slavery in this letter.
The reality of the time was that slavery existed and many of Paul’s converts were slaves or slave owners. While Paul’s teachings about Christ, were key to the abolishing of slavery, he had to teach biblical responses to evil situations that existed just like we do in our own time.
The truth of the matter was, Onesimus had been in service to Philemon. He was not released by Philemon from slavery but ran away. For Onesimus to be free to be used by God in the future, his debt to Philemon must be made right.
If you allow the Holy Spirit to be honest with you and to tell you the truth about your past by doing a fearless moral inventory, do you see any outstanding debts that you owe anyone?
What you do with these debts is key to your present and future plan for your life. We all have new life in Christ when born again, but God, when reconciling our life, insists that we do our part to bring healing and reconciliation to outstanding debts and wounds we have caused before we knew Him.
By this, it is revealed that we are truly under His authority. By this, it is known that we are serious about living a righteous life. By this, integrity is established in our life and integrity is a key to being used in the future by God.
Fearlessly allow the Auditor of Life – Jesus to inspect you. His inspections are for your healing and the revelation of the integrity of your conversion in Him. Get right with those you “owe”.
Next time we see one another, we’ll expound on this a little more.